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Veronica Varlow
  -  Phoenix Rising   -  Thank you

She walked through the flames and survived…me as a little girl with a golden turban….

We have not had internet in a week – we have been digging through ashes, mourning physical losses of pieces of memory and trying to pick ourselves up to see the sunshine once again….

As I write this – in a very public coffeehouse, I find myself fighting back tears… I cannot even believe what I just read…..

The campaign that Catherine and Ashley of the VKA started, has almost, as of this writing, raised $5,000 to help rebuild our house. Read Catherine’s journal entry here.

I am speechless. I am overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude and love. In this difficult, roller coaster of a week, I truly feel like you are here with me. That we are not alone. I am just utterly stunned out the outpouring. I know that many of us don’t have that much money – and so many of you have chipped in to make this happen. I cannot even express how grateful Burke and I are to have you in our lives.

We are making a beautiful scroll with the name of every single person that has donated. This scroll will be built into the wall of our new home. Your names will be honored and live on as part of the love that will restore our beloved home from the ashes. When we have lost so much, we move forward with strength knowing our enchanted cottage will rise up once again on a foundation of love from all of you….

Thank you to those of you who have donated, thank you to those of you who have written words of support. Thank you for having my back. I will never be able to tell you in mere words how much your love has touched us and affected us. You have lifted both Burke and I up in our darkest days…we have all walked through the fire together. We are not alone.

Thank you for caring for us and being there with us.

I wanted to share with all of you a miracle that was born from the ashes…

A day before my birthday, several of us spent hours in the rubble digging for anything we could find. There was nothing to find and exhausted, we were leaving. The sun came out as we were all walking the hill down to our driveway, when I felt like I had to be with the house alone.

I excused myself and went up alone. I stood with the house for the first time by myself. I wanted to do something…I wanted to write a letter of gratitude for all of those good times and bury it in the ash, I wanted to hold onto what remained of my bedroom wall and hug the fragile blackened beams of the structure. I saw a ladybug crawl on the floor of where our magic room used to be and felt better. And I closed my eyes and a song came out of my mouth.

I was shocked at the voice that came out of my body – a deep, rumbling, earth shaking voice to sing the last lullaby to my beloved home. My hands were on my heart as I sang, and I could feel my breath shake with emotion. I sang full out from my soul to my home. I sang with love. I sang for hope. I sang for some kind of peace in all of this chaos.

When I opened my eyes….the first thing I saw was a charred box that had been moved by all the digging. I recognized the paint on the side and identified it as one of the trunks that held my family photos! I ran over to it and reached in. The top of the wooden box was completely burned off and the tops of all the photos in sleeves had been burned. I grabbed the first envelope of photos and they were all stuck together and burned. Destroyed.

For a moment, I thought – Look….do you really want to deal with this 7 hours before your birthday? Do you really want to see all these charred memories?

But in all of this…. I have a hopeful heart. I always think the best can come out of situations, and I dove into the second envelope. I peeled one clump back and there was an almost perfect picture of a group of our friends from when I first met Burke. Zina Brown. James Vogel. Didge Dave. Burke and I – newly dating. All smiling at the camera. Intact.

I frantically pulled through the rest of the photos, separating them one by one carefully…picture after picture of my beloved dog friend Greta who passed away years ago, pictures of my parents when they were 20, pictures of Burke and I on our first road trip together and our first anniversary…. one picture after another, I laid out before me on the grass. They were wet from being outside for a full week with no shelter, wet from fire hoses, and burned by fire….but the majority of them in the box survived.

The sun was now shining down….nice and warm…on me and all my picture memories. Shining down on all those good times and good people and friends.

And for the first time since the fire took our home, happy tears ran down my face…. how could this be possible? This box was right next to the wall where they thought the electrical fire started. It was a wooden box filled with flammable photos. In a fire so hot it burned our entire house down to the ground…. how was it possible that this wooden box of photos survived mostly intact?

The sun beat down as I felt some cardboard at the back of the box… some old cards with the fronts almost melted off because of the heat. And the first one I opened, with words completely visible said: “Happy Birthday! We love you so much. Grandma and Grandpa”
A card for my birthday from my Grandparents who passed on when I was 12 years old.
Six hours before my birthday.

A birthday present from the spirits of my beloved Grandparents… a full box of memory photos saved miraculously from the fire as their gift to me.

And in that field…I remembered what I had almost forgotten in the sadness….

Magic is real.
I am looked after by the spirits of my ancestors.
I am looked after by the people who love me.
I am never alone.
We are all in this together.
….and this world is a beautiful place after all.

Thank you for being so kind to Burke and me. Please know what an extraordinary difference you have made in our lives.

May your lives be blessed with beauty and magic for the rest of your days….
Thank you for taking the time to read all of this.

One of the photos we recovered, along with a letter I wrote to Burke on our wedding day…